Quirks and Quarks

More bad news for bees from neonicotinoid pesticides

Young queen bees exposed to neonics lay fewer eggs and have difficulty founding new colonies.
Bumblebee feeding on canola flowers (Dara Stanley)

It's more bad news for the bees.  This week a team including Dr Nigel Raine, the Rebanks family chair in Pollinator Conservation at the University of Guelph, announced the latest news about the diverse and subtle impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinating bees. The latest research suggests that these pesticides are having significant impact on how successful young queen bees are at starting new colonies. 

This is troubling for many reasons.  Scientists are terribly concerned about declines in natural pollinators, which are vital to our food system - they're responsible for perhaps a third of our food crops.  But neonics are important too - and enormously popular with farmers. Since they were introduced in the 90s they've become the most widely used pesticides in the world.

A farmer pours neonicotinoid-covered corn seeds into a barrel. (Janet Thomson/CBC)
But because of the concerns over pollinators, the EU has already banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.  And in Canada, Ontario has restricted their use and Health Canada is evaluating the possibility of national regulation.  But one unanswered question is, if we ban neonics, will what replaces them be any better?

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